Building Jerusalem in America: William Ashton and a Trans-Atlantic Utopia

In 1834, the Manchester laborer William Ashton crossed the Atlantic with a group of fellow-thinkers to found a utopian colony in Mount Carmel, Indiana.  This exhibit tells the story of that colony: from its origins in early nineteenth-century radical thought, to its establishment on the Indiana frontier, to its eventual dissolution in 1836.  Ashton's endeavor was not unique.  Numerous utopian societies (including, most prominently, the Shakers) emigrated from England in the nineteenth century to "build Jerusalem" on the remote edges of American civilization.  While this exhibit focuses primarily on the history of Ashton's Manchester Social Community Company, it also suggests reasons for British would-be utopians' attraction to America's frontier, and addresses the challenges involved in maintaining a trans-Atlantic utopian community.


Curated by Mary Bowden. All photographs of Ashton mss. documents taken by Zach Downey, courtesy of the Lilly Library, Bloomington, Indiana.